sumptuary laws

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sumptuary laws

(sŭmp`cho͞oĕ'rē), regulations based on social, religious, or moral grounds directed against overindulgence of luxury in diet and drink and extravagance in dress and mode of living. Such laws existed in ancient Greece and Rome, and in Japan they were applied to the peasant and commercial classes until the mid-19th cent. In the 14th and 15th cent. several statutes were passed in England that regulated ornateness of dress and the people's diet. These regulations varied according to the rank of the person, peasants being subject to rules different from those of the gentry. The main purpose of the legislation was to mark class distinctions clearly and to prevent any person from assuming the appearance of a superior class.


See F. E. Baldwin, Sumptuary Legislation and Personal Regulation in England (1926).

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8) According to Hughes, Siena allowed to prostitutes the "silks, belts and platform shoes that honourable women wanted but that the city's sumptuary law denied them" (25).
First, she argued that her proposal was distinct from other sumptuary laws because it prohibited the use of foreign goods rather than their importation.
Kovesi Killerby, Sumptuary Law, 38; Vincent, Costume and Conduct, pp.
Her covered face, defying the sumptuary laws at the time that prohibited veiling, illustrates one of the fundamental reasons for the banning of such coverings--the invisibility of class difference.
Exploring Fortune in the pseudo-Boethian De Disciplina Scholarium (and its English commentators Trevet and Wheatley; de Lille's Anticlaudianus; de Meun's Roman de la Rose; Chaucer's Fortune and his other works; Lydgate's The Fall of Princes; and Charles, Duke of Orleans's Fortunes Stabilnes) and relating the texts to sumptuary laws and authorial biography, Denny-Brown reveals Fortune's self-fashioning; how her changeability of dress fuses with the new concept of fashion; the relationship of her clothing to morality; and ultimately (in Orleans's poem), her constancy in an ever-changing world.
The citizens of Chester were especially familiar with sumptuary law due to a prosecution that took place in that city under a 1554 act forbidding silk to anyone under the status of 'magistrate of corporation' that carried a penalty of three months in prison and a fine of 10 [pounds sterling].
England's first sumptuary law was passed in 1336 and was in fact "an alimentary statute," a law concerned strictly with food, specifically with the overly elaborate fare of the landed gentry.
In the same way that sumptuary law imparts meaning to the forms of dress (the purple thread woven into a Roman toga, the length of sword permitted to an Elizabethan gallant), it can arrange a society's seating plan (proletarians allowed to occupy no more than 5,000 seats in Yankee Stadium for a World Series game), establish the hierarchy of polite behaviors and preferred taste (the caviar or the candied apple, the California zinfandel, or the rotgut Kentucky bourbon), determine which magazines may be sold in supermarkets (Glamour, not Maxim), and pluck from the playing fields of the NFL any referee too fat or too clumsy to be seen on television.
1996 Governance of the passions: A history of sumptuary law.
Rejecting efforts to establish liberalism through its separation from feudalism, Alan Hunt provides a nuanced account of sumptuary law.
A sumptuary law was passed by the Massachusetts General Court prohibiting the purchase of woolen, linen, or silk clothes with silver, gold, silk, or thread lace on them.